Five breast can­cer sur­vivors prove that life af­ter the dis­ease can be ful­fill­ing, en­joy­able


They sit at the back of a mam­moth, pink mo­tor­coach, wrap­ping pink-coloured choco­lates in plas­tic and rib­bon, ban­ter­ing among one an­other and shar­ing their sto­ries of sur­vival with wide-eyed vis­i­tors.

But there’s no self-pity or down­trod­den at­ti­tudes.

These five beam­ing ladies are all smiles, and their charisma and gutsi­ness is enough to brighten any­one’s day.

They say things like, “I’m just glad to be here,” and, “ life is great.”

When it comes to the scourge of breast can­cer, they are the face of the dis­ease. All five have fought the bat­tle, and have sur­vived to will­ingly share their sto­ries and ad­vice with oth­ers.

“I’ve be­come a very pos­i­tive and out­go­ing per­son,” said Gla­dys Mercer of Spa­niard’s Bay.

“In fact, be­fore I had breast can­cer, I would doubt if I would be say­ing any­thing to you right now. I’ve just taken on a dif­fer­ent out­look on life and be­ing very pos­i­tive about it.”

It’s an out­look on life that is shared by Verna Sprack­lin and Judy An­thony of Clarke’s Beach, Emma Brown of Cavendish and Betty White of Heart’s Con­tent.

The five women were front-and-cen­tre on July 12 when the Cana­dian Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion’s Tour for the Cure bus rolled into Car­bon­ear for the day.

It was one of nearly 20 stops across the prov­ince for the dis­tinc­tive pink bus, which ed­u­cates women and men on how to spot the signs of breast can­cer, and ad­vo­cates the ben­e­fits of mam­mo­grams.

It also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for can­cer sur­vivors from the area to share their sto­ries, and drive home the point that breast can­cer is not nec­es­sar­ily a death sen­tence.

“I live each day to the fullest and feel happy for each day that I’m here,” Sprack­lin said.

Added Brown with a smile: “I get up when I want to get up. I don’t go to bed un­til I want to go to bed, and I do what I want to do. And I don’t do any­thing I don’t have to do. It’s all about at­ti­tude.”

The ladies ea­gerly of­fer ad­vise to any­one concerned about breast can­cer, and en­cour­age peo­ple to get to know their bod­ies. Yearly check­ups are crit­i­cal, they say, and never leave a doc­tor’s of­fice if you’re un­sure about some­thing or don’t un­der­stand an an­swer to a ques­tion.

“Ask it again and again un­til you are com­fort­able with it,” said White.

The tour pro­motes the im­por­tance of breast self-ex­ams and mam­mo­grams, but White is an ex­am­ple of where those mea­sures are not al­ways enough. She en­cour­ages peo­ple to have their doc­tor ex­am­ine their breasts. Such a request prob­a­bly saved her life.

Self-ex­ams and a mam­mo­gram did not de­tect her can­cer. Her doc­tor did.

“If I did not have the phys­i­cal exam, it may not have been picked up for an­other year or so. Then maybe the out­come would have been quite dif­fer­ent,” said White.

“It has been said by my sur­geon that he sees a lot of ladies who just have mam­mo­grams, and not ac­tu­ally phys­i­cal ex­ams.”

Sup­port from fam­ily and friends is also very im­por­tant, they say, and open­ing up to other can­cer sur­vivors is also very ther­a­peu­tic. That’s part of the rea­son why An­thony is such an ad­vo­cate for a sup­port group based in Clarke’s Beach.

“ We find that a big help, and we en­cour­age any­one with breast can­cer to join us,” An­thony said.

But the un­der­ly­ing mes­sage, they say, is that peo­ple have to be their own health ad­vo­cate. They be­lieve their lives would have ended pre­ma­turely if they did not rou­tinely have mam­mo­grams, do self-ex­ams and con­sult reg­u­larly with their doc­tors.

“I think I saved my­self ” by hav­ing a mam­mo­gram, said Sprack­lin. “Now I get up ev­ery morn­ing and you thank God you’re here.”

On the web: http://www.tour­forthe­cure.

Name: Verna Sprack­lin Re­sides: Clarke’s Beach Di­ag­nosed: De­cem­ber 2008 Treat­ment: mas­tec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy Quote: “It’s two year’s later and ev­ery­thing is look­ing mar­velous and I can jump in the air.”

Name: Emma Brown Re­sides: Cavendish Di­ag­nosed: June 2008 Treat­ment: four rounds of chemo­ther­apy Quote: “ Thank God I’m on the green side of the sod.”

Name: Betty White Re­sides: Heart’s Con­tent Di­ag­nosed: Oc­to­ber 1999 Treat­ment: mas­tec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy Quote: “I’m into my eleventh year and I’m do­ing re­ally, re­ally well.”

Name: Gla­dys Mercer Re­sides: Spa­niard’s Bay Di­ag­nosed: 2005 Treat­ment: mas­tec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy. Had sec­ond breast re­moved in April as a pre­cau­tion.

Name: Judy An­thony Re­sides: Clarke’s Beach Di­ag­nosed: Fe­bru­ary 2007. Treat­ment: lumpec­tomy and ra­di­a­tion Quote: “I’ve been re­ally do­ing well and my faith in God helped me through it all.

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